Our Next Destiny: Objective Morality

As a student of history, I have been trained to consider what we can learn from an expanse of time at altitudes that transcend the moment. To be clear, we must deal with the flames at our feet; ignoring them means tomorrow may never come. However, if we are to have any claim of authorship of our future, we must lift our eyes, hearts, and minds to consider new possibilities and opportunities. Otherwise, we are forever victims of circumstance. The time is now to lift our perspective to shape a new destiny.

I have written extensively about the cycles of American history. Born in crisis, our history suggests we then move to a period of objectivism, then liberalism, then idealism, and crisis again. We are at the end of our fourth period of crisis in American history, what I termed the “Age of Deceit.” What comes next—a new era of objectivism—has been characterized in the past by terms such as unity, reason, inclusion, pragmatism, tolerance, risk aversion, stability, containment, self-reliance, standardization, meritocracy, frugality, humility, redemption, secularity, family, and community.

Every period of objectivism varies to reflect the nature and consequences of the immediately preceding crisis. Historically, these consequences have emanated from economic and physical destruction. The periods that followed the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and World War II were periods of objectivism. The next fourth period of objectivism will be different. Yes, there has been economic and physical destruction during the Age of Deceit that spanned the wars we waged in the Middle East, to the Great Recession, to the pandemic; but, this time, there has been an unprecedented degree of moral destruction as well. Among other things, the term “empathy” must join those above to set a new destiny—a new era—of objectivism.

Although deceit was the common denominator that I chose to characterize the period of crisis we are now leaving, the moral transgressions ranged a spectrum of violations of those things we might consider under the umbrella of “good.” In addition to our many deceits, we were also selfish, greedy, reckless, conceited, and profoundly narcissistic. Our calculus excluded morality; it began and ended in a transactional modality measured principally in dollars and seldom considered effects beyond ourselves—across extended peoples, places, or time.

Ironically, but also consistent with history, one might expect that morality would have been a primary consideration in the era just passed since periods of late idealism and early crisis are marked by high religiosity. After all, aren’t religions known for their high morality? The answer, of course, is that the values religions promote are, but the institutions and organizations formed to support them fall victim to the same things other institutions and organizations do: compromising their principles in the name of self-preservation. Organized religions compete for adherents just as private enterprise competes for customers. Doing good—meeting moral commitments—are often the first victim of competition.

Of the values all world religions hold is the idea that we should treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves; the so-called Golden Rule. However, there is another tenet of morality we must both recognize and embrace if we are to transcend this crisis and deliver ourselves to a much better place—to a destiny of objective morality. It to, is taught by most, if not all world religions. I call it the principle of moral reciprocity. It is the idea that we are as strong as the weakest among us, as wealthy as the poorest among us, as safe as the least secure among us, as healthy as the sickest among us. This principle is they key to solving many of our problems; those that collectively fall into the basket of concerns we call inequality. And, it is a prerequisite of achieving the loftiest objective of all: a sustainable culture of integrity.

To secure a future of objective morality we must change two things: where we focus our eyes, and how we measure success. Where we end up, whether we are driving a car, or plotting a path to a new destiny, largely depends on where we focus our eyes. We go where our eyes tell the brain behind them to go. The brain then commands the body to coordinate its capabilities to get there. The other element is how we measure success; when we have arrived at our destination, be it a place or an outcome. In the Age of Deceit, we measured our success in dollars and personal gratification. It should be no surprise, then, that we are in the mess we are in as a society. I believe it can be argued we don’t even have a society today.

For the most part, this shift in perspective is understood by our current president, Joe Biden. Against extraordinary structural impediments, President Biden is trying to take us to a period of objective morality. The good news is forces tend to move us in the direction of objectivism following periods of idealism and crisis. In many ways, we are given little choice to correct our path if we are to survive. We have that going for us. Our eyes will naturally focus on new destinations out of the basic desire for self-preservation. However, embracing the principle of moral reciprocity is anathema to where we have been for the last three decades. This will be a formidable challenge.

Curiously, organized religion could play a positive role. The decline of religiosity in America could be addressed by a new appeal to the so-called “nones” that claim no religious affiliation by appealing to their sense of morality as defined by the Golden Rule and the principle of moral reciprocity. Organized religion—to save itself—must authentically and sincerely embrace morality again. If it does, it will be the first time since it supported civil rights and rallied against the war in Viet Nam in the 1960s. Since then, it has mostly spiraled into the abyss of its current irrelevance. It followed our descent into depravity rather than saving us from it.

As individuals, we must also set our sights on new horizons. If we want stronger families and communities, why do we continue to stare at our federal government and national media? We need to assure we each take responsibility for where our feet stand each and every day. We need to point at ourselves to assure a new destiny. We need to ask our neighbors how they are doing. No one will, or can, lift us up if we don’t make the effort ourselves.  Good and bad are both contagious. It is up to us to see which one spreads.

A life lived in a state of objective morality has many benefits. Today, given from whence we have come, it may just be the key to our very survival, and the prosperity—both material and moral—of many generations to come.

By |2021-04-11T18:40:34+00:00April 11th, 2021|Current, General, Leadership|0 Comments

Masks Are Killing America

I suspect you are like me in at least one regard: we are all tired as hell of the impact the pandemic has had on our lives, including the wearing of masks. Statistically, most of us have not endured the disease of Covid-19 or lost a loved one—at least not to death. Unless we are completely ignorant of the efficacy of masks, or have been fooled by 45, we know beyond any scientific doubt that masks reduce the transmission of the SARS CoV-2 virus. We comply to survive.

However, the cost of masks and the general isolation required to get to herd immunity may be much larger than any cost—save the loss of human lives and related Covid-disabilities—we have endured thus far. Unity, required for any democracy to thrive against the perils it faces, was in a fragile state before the pandemic. It now may be lost forever. And, masks and isolation will share the blame. These Covid-costs are only just beginning to be realized.  Masks—both virtual and actual—are slowly killing the promise of the American idea.

Our first virtual mask, simple partisanship, has always imperiled unity, but that has been a common mask throughout our political history.  Read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton to get a taste of that reality. Then, beginning in the 1990s, our second virtual mask was affluence. New and extraordinary wealth created enough space in our society to make bad decisions while largely escaping any serious consequences. This ahistorical slack in the system created by affluence also allowed us to become arrogant, self-centered, and dismissive of the need for cooperation. Money became our mask. We were too smart and selfish to entertain the admonition of the late Rodney King: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Then, in the 2000s, came the virtual mask of social media, which allowed us to retreat further into ourselves. We joyfully allowed ourselves to limit our interaction to those ideas, beliefs, and ‘friends’ with which, or with whom, we agreed. Critical thinking gave way to the creampuff comfort of being correct, regardless of how wrong we were. In particular, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube made billions off our lazy minds and weakened characters. (Blaming them rather than ourselves has become the latest of our responsibility-avoidance behaviors.)

Then, in 2016, came 45; I won’t belabor that cost to unity.

Today, we are at home alone, or alone together with those who share a roof.  When we venture out, we do it with actual masks and distance—lots and lots of masks and distance. Zoom, Webex, and Facetime have become our only means of faux face-to-face communication. And, they suck. Yes, we can see unmasked faces, but that is only one aspect of human communication. If we are to ever have a chance at unity again, it requires breathing the same air in the same place with each other where we can observe all the clues embedded in bodily communication and are forced to respond in real time to real issues, and maybe—just maybe—get a sense of who we are again. We must touch again, both figuratively and actually. We must shed our masks.

This last weekend, many 45ers met at CPAC’s annual conference to beat their chests of certitude and genuflect before a gold statue of 45, dressed like an entitled prep-school kid going to a patriotic cookout. (The scarlet red flipflops really set off his ensemble.) Others, however, understand the challenge of unity and are offering their work to begin the rebirth of empathy and understanding. And, no, they aren’t the ones who herald wokeness as a path to unity. To me, wokeness smells like another form of self-righteous certitude.

“How to Understand Your Enemy,” a podcast episode of The Good Fight, hosted by Yascha Mounk, included the research of John Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska who has studied 45ers and pulls back the curtain on what motivates their support of 45, but more importantly how they see America and the world. Spoiler alert: no, they are all not deplorables.  In Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine, Bill Donahue, who lives in rural New Hampshire where 45 won easily, illustrates his attempt to engage with the other political side which, through perseverance and patience, actually forged a new understanding—a necessary precursor to unity—with at least one political foe.

In my own hometown of Ridgway, Colorado, one rancher has erected an enormous American flag in the middle of his pasture, the kind commonly found flying over automobile dealerships in Texas. It has agitated many because of its size and unnatural visual impact in an otherwise pristine pastoral valley wedged between snow-capped mountains. At the same time, it has galvanized others who feel 45 was robbed of a second term. The letters to the editor that followed its erection on both sides—agitated or galvanized—were as predictable as they were banal. But, perhaps we should view it as a conversation starter; where people actually listen to each other.  Perhaps the flag is even a cry for help—to be heard. Or, simply the display of a 45-bully. Either way, if we wish to be heard, we must be willing to listen.

People are scared; they are angry. We have reason to be both. However, we must realize that partisanship, affluence, social media, and 45, have turned us into enemies regardless of the facts at hand. The pandemic, marked by masks and isolation, may be the death knell of unity and our democracy. We have to get past this nonsense as soon as possible if the promise of America has any hope of being reborn. Today, America is on its own ventilator. Put a flag—however large or small—up to your ear to hear its feeble screams.

Please, people, we can do better. We must do better.

By |2021-04-11T18:25:52+00:00February 28th, 2021|American Identity, General|0 Comments

Tune Out to Tune In

Avert your eyes and cover your ears. A nose-clip, or essential oil diffuser, might be in order as well. Turn the channel away from the din of political dishonor. Swipe left. Refocus your efforts on yourself, your loved ones, on friends, on family, and on community. The charlatans who pledge their allegiance to our best interests no longer deserve our attention. They have failed us and embarrassed their grandchildren. In an effort to have things both ways, Mitch McConnell has turned himself inside out so many times what is left is a sack of mottled death-pallor skin inflated by putrid bloat. Shame is his pathetic legacy.

Meanwhile, Team Joe are working their butts off to reverse our national descent into the abyss while the SARS CoV-2 mutates to save itself from our many interventions. Spring, come soon. For our part, we must ignore the shiny distractions members of Congress jangle before the lenses of their media enablers to loosen our wallets in their favor. Our resources don’t need to go to Washington DC in hopes they may someday return to serve us; they need to be directly applied at home. I implore once again: building stronghold communities is our path to a better future. (See chapter 8 in Saving America in the Age of Deceit.)

There are glimpses of brilliance on the horizon. A certain byproduct of crisis is innovation. Forced to think differently and enabled by norm-crashing consequences, new powers based in new beauty are revealed. New technologies are an obvious place of innovation. As David Brooks pointed out in The New York Times recently, “life altering breakthroughs … are fewer than they once were,” which is to say: it is now time for many more. The half-full glass mindset suggests the current massive public health, economic, and political crises we face will, paradoxically, create the necessary space for an acceleration of opportunity to redesign our world.

Coronavirus vaccines have broken all the legacy rules of vaccine development and distribution. As clumsy as we appear today in our attempt to conquer Covid-19, tomorrow we may have a one-shot coronavirus vaccine that will knock out a spectrum of deadly viruses and maybe even the common cold. In energy, everything from harnessing deep-earth heat to brand new safe, small, and efficient nuclear reactors may assure that efforts in renewables—well underway already—have complementary sources of clean energy to assure our lifestyle, health and safety for generations to come while breathing new life into the planet.  As Brooks surmised, “one could go on: artificial intelligence; space exploration seems to be heating up; a variety of anti-aging technologies are being pursued; … an anti-obesity drug. There is even lab-grown meat.”

Our souls must, however, be cleansed as well. The folks in lab coats can give us new tools, but we need to reboot our hearts and minds. For example, the hyper-individualism my generation bestowed upon America that was amplified to levels of selfie-based narcissism by our children, must be set aside for new regimes of collective action that utilize the efficiencies of capitalism as a means rather than an end. The world has become an interconnected and highly dependent field of energy that transcends borders, walls, language, and currencies while honoring the beauty of cultural heritage. Honesty and respect must replace fear and greed as differentiators to affect persuasion. The butterfly effect is real. What was once seen as chaos will be recognized as rational fluidity once enlightenment is realized. (It only appears chaotic when we don’t understand what is going on.)

Achieving this is the Holy Grail of a thousand years.  It can only happen if we start with ourselves and our communities. This is a bottom-up process. One person, one soul at a time. A virtue-based life has been recognized by philosophers for thousands of years as the key to transcendence and tranquility; as the pathway to harmony with Nature, writ large. The opportunity today has been established by a lack of choice born from crisis. We may feel pinned down in the moment, but there is a better way coming into view.

Unclench your fists. Turn your screams into song. Avert your eyes but don’t close them. Beyond suffering lies the prospect of transformation. Perhaps even a second age of enlightenment. It won’t be easy; it will be damn hard. Many among us won’t get there, but those of us who do may just change the whole world. Tune out, take a huge breath, then tune in, again.

By |2021-02-28T19:47:29+00:00February 16th, 2021|General, The New Realities|0 Comments

Onward America

“That was some weird shit,” surmised our forty-third president, George W. Bush, as he departed the inaugural of our forty-fifth, Donald J. Trump. Four years on, the American carnage visualized by Trump at his inaugural—his “weird shit”—has been realized in full.  We descended, slowly but surely, into his tangled web of threats that he carefully crafted to assure the manifestation of his psychopathy as our collective doom.

Would he become presidential, transformed by the traditions and honor of his office?  No, he would not.  Would he be cajoled and contained by veterans of American exceptionalism? No, he made short shrift of them; one crisp dark blue suit at a time. In the end, he was left with Mr. Pillow, the last and lowest of his sycophants, save America’s (former) mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Cormac McCarthy could have written it, but none of us would have believed him. The Road, a feat of dystopic eloquence, feels too real today.  Hardscrabble America, as the playwright Sam Shepard celebrated, was an early victim. That America belonged to Trump too. Remember, “Trump Loves Coal!”? He promised them deliverance from their fears of falling into irrelevance, or worse.  But, dying of whiteness became a thing. Deaths of despair eviscerated rural America; MAGA hats clasped upon their chests as they were lowered into the cemeteries of their ancestors.

It seems we have slipped on every step as we stumbled toward peril; as if the edges of each riser were glazed in black ice. An empire lost. Generations of toil and sacrifice butchered at the altar of a malignant narcissist as his insatiable appetite raged; a gluttonous monster. “America First” was, in truth: Trump first, last, and always.

Today, we are left looking over our shoulders as we attempt to live our lives. The web of threats we face strangle us with demonic ire. Invisible death lurks in the contrails of each human exhalation we pass. Some families have grown deeper in their conviction to each other, while others have been lost. Communities and companies and churches struggle to remain united behind the glassy indifference of Zoom screens. Children, whose memory banks are naturally low, struggle to remember what happiness is. Despair has taken up residency in the soul of America.

We have hit bottom, or damn close. Weird shit, indeed. Will God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea?  It seems unlikely today, but who knows? For the moment, most of us have survived what has been a monumental challenge—to evade the gangrenous rot of Donald Trump. While there are those who still dangle, tethered by their stubborn sense of denial—continuing to support the madness Trump hath wrought—their tentacles will eventually wither in the sunlight of truth.  We may no longer count them as friends or family, or possess the mercy to catch them as they fall, but it is what it is. Life is an onward proposition.

It will be a long road out from this purgatory. We must resist the notion of sudden deliverance or redemption.  It will take all of our strength and resources. Hard work and hard love. Time. We were crossed by a madman, but that too is our responsibility. Determination must supplant compromise for now. Those who continue to suckle the nipple of deceit must be relinquished of their authority; banished from further consideration. If we are to save America from treasonous Americans—whether Proud Boys, QAnon, or members of the United States Congress—we must do so with the disposition and strength of a grizzly bear. The stakes are simply too high.

Our first president, George Washington, warned us in his farewell address that

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

We have lived through Washington’s warning; we must never forget this lesson again.

May we find strength and resolve in our memories of those who preceded us, and inspiration and hope in the promise of those who follow.

Onward, America.

By |2021-02-16T19:49:09+00:00January 19th, 2021|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

The Truth Must Rise Again

Our urgent duty as Americans is to assure, from this point forward, that the truth, like the sun, rises each and every day.

Like many of my readers, I am in the last phase of my life.  And, like you, I do not know how long it will last. I have had great successes and great failures. I have laughed and I have cried.  My heart has been filled with joy and emptied by the pain of loss.  And like you, I have known—from a very young age—the difference between right and wrong; between truth and lies.

In moments of weakness, humans can lose their grip on reality; we can become susceptible to deceit—especially if in so doing it makes us feel strong again.  This is what Trump has done to millions of Americans; Americans who feel weakened by a world that is moving in directions that threaten their position in social, economic, and political order.  I have referred to this in other writings as the period of Great Dispossession.  Specifically, to white Christian nationalists who were easily captured by Trump’s rhetoric of reclaiming an American retrotopia perhaps best illustrated in the paintings of Norman Rockwell.

Pluralism—a fundamental tenet of Americanism—which was once a clarion call to the world to join us in the American experiment, was flipped from ideal to threat for those targeted by Trump.  Science and technology—that assured America’s place as a hegemonic superpower and literally extended our lives by decades—became a suspicious and dangerous regime deployed by highly educated elites.  Knowledge and reason, revered at our nation’s birth as a gift of the Age of Enlightenment, has been traded for beliefs corrupted by blind faith in purveyors of deceit—con men—operating at all levels of our society.  The Age of Deceit has reigned down upon us.

It was said by many, including president-elect Joe Biden, that the events of January 6th in our nation’s capital do not represent “who we are.”  I beg to differ.  Today, what has happened and may continue to happen, is exactly who we are.  It is ugly, embarrassing, and shameful, but we must each own our part—either through our active participation or our inactive complicity—if we are to have a chance of redemption and renewal.  We must own this truth.

Since as early as 2010, in this blog, I have warned about an emerging move toward the impulse of fascism in America.  I have warned about the degradation of the American values, writing most extensively about it in my 2020 book, Saving America in the Age of Deceit.  In public meetings in my own hometown, shortly after Trump’s election, I labeled him a wannabe fascist and further warned that the great irony of his presidency would be that while America has faced many existential threats throughout its history that today, as appalling as it was, that threat resided in the Oval Office. Many looked at me as if I were crazy, others just hoped I would be proven wrong.  I was neither.

We must, once again, see our country through clear eyes and full hearts. One of the great lessons of my life has been to work carefully and deliberately to always see things as they are as opposed as to how I might like them to be.  To be always and ever curious.  To question the givens. To learn even when it hurts.  As we age, we have a choice: do we become hardened in our thinking—intellectually sclerotic—or open to new knowledge and emerging realities? The first path leads to isolation and anger; the second path to fulfillment and transcendence.  The first life passes holding a bucket of resentment; the second swaddled by grace in a state of peace.  Which will you be?

Another tenet of Americanism is the prospect of second chances.  Who we are today, as painfully illustrated in our nation’s capital this week, does not have to be who we become.  Those with open and curious minds are always becoming.  Those with empathy lift others up to see the view they see: the promise on the horizon of hope where we must—immediately—allow truth to rise again.

By |2021-01-19T14:29:34+00:00January 10th, 2021|American Identity, Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Spelunking the Soul

Last spring, my daughter who lives in New York City and had been hospitalized with dengue fever in January, suffered Covid-19 in March, and had her dreams of working on Broadway following her graduation from NYU in May evaporate in a raging pandemic, wanted my assurance that “normal” would return soon.  In a paternal headfake—the kind you use when you don’t have the answer—I suggested a “new normal” would prevail. “But what will ‘new normal’ be, Papa?,” she asked. (At 22 years of age she knows a headfake when she hears one.) “I just don’t know,” I said apologetically. “No one does,” I added, in an attempt to rescue my paternal authority from the embarrassment of my quotidian ignorance.

As the days of uncertainty turned to weeks then months, and my own wife of sixteen years abandoned our marriage to focus “on myself … to know myself better … and figuring out what I want for my life” in June, I have had plenty of time to plumb the depths of despair and interrogate the factors that landed me, my community, country, and all of humanity in the perilous place we find ourselves today. I dove (or was perhaps shoved) into the cavernous darkness of contemplation; in shorthand, spelunking the soul.

What I have learned thus far, with the help of my therapist, Rita Robinson, is that the pain, grief, and despair we endure from both personal and communal loss must not be wasted on fighting to get back to where we were—to the old normal. Rather, they must be embraced as gifts of deliverance. We must layer the pain, like the compressed slivered sheets that form plywood, into a pliable yet durable springboard to leap to a better place—a better and new normal.

We must first accept the unwelcome truth that the old normal got us into the mess we are in. Why would we pine for its return? Why would we want to reestablish the beliefs, practices, policies, and twisted norms that delivered so much misery? Why would we attempt reconciliation with the capricious?  We aren’t where we are entirely by chance; we have contributed mightily to our suffering. We need to own our complicity in the pain we endure while letting go of the factors that conspired against us.  Clinging to them for the comfort of the familiar might allow the snake to bite twice.

Our leaders lied to us while we knew better and remained silent. We watched as children were ripped from the arms of their parents and locked in cages and we just turned the channel, or swiped left. We lowered the window shades as our neighbor’s children went to bed hungry. We whined about our liberties lest the indignity of wearing a mask might stifle our freedom, and thousands died. We failed to ask the most fundamental question of all to those we care about: “Are you okay?” Our mouths were busy talking while our ears should have been busy listening. We hid in our social media silos for comfort to shield us from the indecency of our indifference. We wallowed in self-pity as we stroked and groomed our pathetic sense of entitlement.

Yup, we suck. However, we can stop sucking by caring again. By listening. By giving of ourselves. By holding each other to account. We can stand up for the truth and silence the parasites that have been draining the life out of our communities. We can respect the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone, not just those who look like us, think like us, or are our so-called friends in our social media cliques. We can sacrifice present comforts for bigger challenges like assuring our air is breathable, our water drinkable, and nature is revered again so that there is a future for all creatures that call earth home. We need to set aside having for being. Our next normal can be much better than the last.

The next few weeks will be some of the toughest ever faced in the history of the United States, but the elements of our redemption are within reach. Safe and effective vaccines. New national leadership. A staggered, humbled, but resolute people who are ready to do the work of renewal. Our losses must be the seeds of a new future—a new normal.  We will get out by getting through.

Someday we will be asked how we dealt with the calamity of 2020—easily one of the worst years in the history of America—similar to the questions we asked our parents and grandparents about the Great Depression. Now is the time to make certain your answer is one your children and grandchildren can brag about. That you took your blows, steeled your spine, renewed your sense of empathy, and made the sacrifices—did the hard work—to create a better future born from the lessons of loss.

Happy New Year. I hope.

By |2021-01-10T17:38:03+00:00December 28th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

Into the Light

The curtain is falling on America’s long descent into the darkness of the Age of Deceit.

I suppose it is fitting that the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs today on this winter’s solstice; the closest since the year 1226. A conjunction Christians believe formed the Christmas Star more than two millennia ago as they co-opted a pagan celebration as their own. Virtually every religion and culture across the world and across time have rituals and celebrations to herald our seasonal turn from darkness to light. The promise of rebirth this year has never been more welcome.

Our descent into the darkness of deceit began nearly twenty years ago with our leader’s lies about WMD and al-Qaeda in Iraq. We tolerated those deceits because we were angry and afraid. As truth became relative—in virtually all aspects of our society—other fundamental underpinnings of character also became vulnerable including humility, temperance, and especially our sense of compassion. We became righteous, arrogant, greedy, and frankly, a danger to ourselves.

Our descent reached terminal velocity with the election of Donald Trump. Deceit is disorienting and 2020 marked the zenith of our disconnection from reality and truth, quite literally resulting in the unnecessary death of hundreds of thousands of Americans. “Shame” and “pity” are words our allies use to describe America today. They are being kind.

The cost of all of this may never be summed, but suffice it to say we cannot afford to continue on our current path.

Some argue we will, indeed, continue on this path of descent—a trajectory akin to a downward spiral. Their predictions are plausible, but ahistorical. The path of humanity, including America, has never been linear. Randomness and chaos tend toward lurching to and fro like a poorly anchored pendulum always threatening to lose its grip on its axis. And, humans learn. We course-correct. We seek advantage through differentiation. It is more than likely we will now lurch back toward the light of truth. Under current circumstances, our very survival depends on this turn.

We must set judgment and condemnation aside. There is plenty of shame and blame for all of us to share, which is a completely useless endeavor. It is time for virtue to return to the altar of reverence. We must rebuild our character as individuals, communities, and a nation—one virtue at a time. It will be hard; painful. But the needle is pointing toward truth. It is that dim but stable light that beckons at the other end of the tunnel. The light that will draw us from despair, from fear, from loathing, from the threat of complete and utter destruction.

With truth comes the prospect of justice, accompanied by its loyal steward: love.

We can get there if we go together. We have lived the alternative for the last 20 years—to our great peril. Tomorrow is ours to seek. Our destiny is in our hands. The future of humankind hangs in the balance. This is no time for indifference. This is no time to bet on luck. It is time to reject deceit in all of its forms; to embrace the light of truth as our beacon of hope. It is time to clasp each other’s hands and climb. To breathe the air of clarity that awaits at the top of the mountain of virtue where our souls can soar again.

What a joy it would be to see you there. If you make it there before I do, please take my words with you, and enjoy the view.

Happy Solstice!

By |2020-12-28T17:07:38+00:00December 21st, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

Your Gift

Several years ago, when I was a volunteer helping really sick cancer kids at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, I wrote Your Gift as a holiday message to our group of volunteers and patient families who had gathered to remember those we had lost during the year.  As you might imagine, it was a time of remembrance, healing, and gratitude.  Since then, I have tweaked it and updated it and shared it with friends, family, and community.  Inevitably, and perhaps especially this year, I share it again by popular demand.  Share it with others, or just hold it as your own.

Your Gift

We arrive in this world by circumstance and spend much of our life trying to reconcile the gift. We endure our struggles and ascribe our lot with the certainty of burden. Between the jubilation, pain and occasional humility we scrape a path that is ours, alone. In the seam of these struggles, life offers brilliance; the warmth of late summer’s sun quenching our shoulders as we gaze across a horizon of promise; the magical touch of a child’s hand who clasps ours for comfort; the flash of a smile from a heart who loves ours, too. We are placed here by chance to express a life all our own. Tear away the wrapping, therein lies the gift.

Our choices are many…perhaps too many. We wring our hands over “pearlized ivory” or “satin cream;” over the eight-place setting or twelve. We pay others to tell us how to dress, behave and raise our children. We fear our judgment, lest we disappoint those we allow to judge us. Many of us are addled by success; frozen by a world we herald as great. Others grant short shrift to such contrivance and lean forward into tomorrow.

Every morning offers beauty. Every day arrives as a clean slate, if we look past the indelible erasures. When the sky is dark, the wind unyielding and the news dire, there is reason to smile. We each possess the promise of greatness; to thrust our spirit into the light where our gift can shine.  In the vastness of time and space we are but specs in the history of the universe, yet each of us possess this gift that is as beautiful as it is rare. The choice is ours, in this moment and every moment that follows. Look into the eyes that stare back at you in the mirror and embrace your gift. Draw those near who nourish your soul. Let others pass.

This season, take a morning walk in the silence of new-fallen snow; lift a child upon your knee and tell them a story about your grandfather; sit outside at night until the sky throws a star your way.

Listen.

Love.

Laugh.

May you be held in the warmth of the season and your spirit soar in the new year.

Lord knows, we need a new year.

By |2020-12-21T14:28:56+00:00December 18th, 2020|General|0 Comments

Let’s Give Each Other a Chance Again

It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity.  The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion.  There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains.  The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.

As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door.  She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind.  The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile.  Yes, rats can smile.  (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)

Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common.  The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring.  People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest.  But, this was strange.  Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing.  I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.

I wept for the prospect of normalcy.  I wept for the promise of hope.  I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return.  I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime.  I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic.  I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril.  But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too.  Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them.  And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.

The heart of America has many wounds.  To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish.  It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power.  The American Dream may be lost forever.  Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future.  However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.”  After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit.  It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse.  In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.”  Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace.  We must give each other a chance again.

By |2020-12-03T14:33:05+00:00November 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General, Recent|0 Comments

Tomorrow is Almost Here

To summon W.B. Yeats, we deserved the “rough beast, its hour come ‘round at last” that slithered into Washington decimating democratic institutions at home and American credibility throughout the world.  Trump simply poured gasoline on the fire we had already started to destroy traditional American values after the end of the Cold War, then capped the ash heap with a dumpster-load of diabolical cruelty and stupefying incompetence.  He has been a wake-up call we will forever condemn, and yet, tragically deserved.

For those of you wringing your hands over the results we are about to witness, continue wringing them.  But, not for the actual votes cast—Biden will win that battle—rather, for the nefarious acts currently underway by the Trump campaign and our illegitimate Justice Department that are contriving incidents and arguments for our now-illegitimate Supreme Court to assure power remains in Trumplican hands.  Chief Justice Roberts alone may not be able to save the Court.  For this moment in American history, all three branches of our government are controlled by a minority that will do anything—regardless of laws or norms—to keep their boots on the necks of the majority.  Bush v. Gore may prove a quaint predictor of what unfolds next.  The Founders provided us with institutions (like the senate and electoral college) to keep the majority in check, but those structures have been inverted to paradoxically achieve the opposite: empowering and protecting minority rule.

With all three branches of our government compromised, preventing a stolen election largely depends on turnout.  “2BIG2RIG” is the formula for excising the festering tumor of Trumplican deceits that have placed our republic in peril.  As in 2016, the polls will be wrong.  Pollsters have a very difficult time predicting results unless turnout mirrors historical voting patterns.  In 2016, they undervalued non-college educated white rural voters that rendered their predictions agonizingly wrong.  In 2020, the extraordinary levels of voter turnout and, most especially, the surge in young voters and returning voters of color strongly suggest that the historic patterns that guide polling and modeling have been shattered.

My mother, who wore her index finger raw on a rotary phone in the 1960s to 80s to cajole people into voting, would be proud of the 2020 turnout, which is already historic.  This time, I expect it will be the Trumplicans grieving about how wrong the polls were; the results will reflect the power of those that pollsters failed to consider, or properly value.  Those who prefer blue to red.  And, while foreign hacking of the vote tally is also a concern, and is certainly being aided by the Trump administration, again, 2BIG2RIG should substantially dilute these effects as well.

Of course, with a nation awash in guns and hatred, there will be blood.  People in Kansas have already been shooting each other over yard signs.  Hopefully, incidents of ignorance and violence will remain isolated and contained.  Depending on where you live, have a plan to hide until cooler heads prevail.  Innocents are a bully’s first target.  And, a wild-eyed steroidal idiot with an assault rifle may be itching to make his video-game fantasies come true.

When all votes have been counted, and relative calm returns, Obama’s “Hope and Change,” updated by Biden as “Build Back Better,” will return to our doorstep with Joe as its shepherd. Answer the door when you hear the bell.  Take a deep breath.  Take a nap.  Hug yourself.  Then, commit yourself anew; prepare to do the crucial work to save our future.

The new work—saving our future—must be founded in humility and purpose.  Revenge is satisfying, but only for a moment.  Evening the score will compromise unification that is so urgently needed to deal with issues like Covid-19 and climate change.  Vice must be set aside in favor of virtue.   Healing our scarred souls and embracing unity as our highest aim—e pluribus unum—must become, once again, our north star.  Us vs. Them and Win-Lose scenarios have no place in our collective pursuit of redemption.  Hate must be put asunder.  America’s restoration lies in empowering others rather than coercive schemes of dominance.

We must shine the mighty light of the good to disinfect the bad.  We must look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and assure them, with sincerity equal to their innocence, that we’ve got this; that their lives will be as safe and prosperous as ours have been.  We must hand them a torch worth carrying forth.  Reason and science and humanism must return to the alter of American discourse.  We have saved America from its enemies in the past, now we must save it from ourselves.  We can do this.  After all, we are (still) Americans.

 

By |2020-11-08T16:21:35+00:00November 2nd, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments
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